Dealing With Stress…or, the thin line between caring and apathy

A friend at school really put things well.  Right now our group, about 12 people taking this program, are split into two types: those who are tired, and those who don’t care anymore.  In other words, the ones who want to care but are struggling, and the ones who seem to have given up and are apathetic. I am – to use a term that is NORMALLY positively applied – at the tipping point.  I still care, but I’m losing balance and can see just how wonderful ‘not caring’ can be.

‘Not caring’ is kind of the project or scholarly equivalent of ‘Ignorance is Bliss.’  ‘Not Caring’ means that looming deadlines, classmate frustrations with your work ethic, or skipping classes doesn’t stress you out…in fact, it’s a reason to declare ‘Chill out!  You’re too worried about stuff!’  ‘Not Caring’ means you can do the bare minimum and smile while you’re doing it.  ‘Not Caring’ is coasting.  Caring…that’s running.

So…what motivates a person to keep caring when it’s SO MUCH EASIER to give up and coast through.

I guess one motivation is the desire to be a positive example.  I’d use the term ‘role model’ but that term feels so high and mighty.  I don’t feel like I’m better than people who are becoming apathetic, nor do I feel I should be some kind of guiding light to bring them back to the ‘caring’ side of the scale.  I just feel like I’d be REALLY angry with myself if I tipped.  It would be hypocritical of me to stop putting in everything I can, even if it means after week fifteen I collapse into a pile of goo and sleep for a month.

Another motivation is pure work ethic.  I started this program and goddamit I’m going to finish it.  Again…I think EVERYONE is going to finish the program.  But it’s finishing it running rather than pushing myself through the finish-line ribbon sitting in an office chair…which I did for about thirty minutes today…push myself around on an office chair that is.  That’s pretty much the point I realized I was tipping towards apathy.  Which in itself is a sad realization: I was having fun…when I should’ve been working…

…that’s for another blog.

Tipping towards apathy.  I’ve felt that once before and it was NOT a happy feeling.  It was my previous job, before going to school, the one I quit and literally had to walk out on.  Now, don’t picture one of those empowering cinematic ‘storming out, head held high, leaving the crap job to go back to school’ scenes.  Instead, picture a grown man with a mohawk and facial piercings sobbing while carrying dress shoes and a Bose Sounddock out the front door.

Now, let’s step back twenty minutes before I wept openly in front of a bunch of teenaged waiters in Whitby.  THAT tipping point was literally spending ten minutes staring at bacon sizzling on a skillet…looking over at a sink full of dishes…looking at a schedule and realizing I had to start figuring out breaks for the other employees…looking at orders going onto the wheel…and realizing: “I can’t do this anymore.”  I went from caring 24 hours earlier to admitting to myself what I’d known for months: you can’t force yourself to care about something just cause you feel you should.

I felt I should care cause I fought very hard for the promotion – Assistant Manager!  I felt I should care cause I’d been commuting to the restaurant for a month, I literally helped build the thing, I gave up my cushy servers job TEN MINUTES WALK away from my house for this tough assistant managers job AN HOUR AND A HALF DRIVE away.  But I didn’t care.

And that’s what made that moment different than this one.  In this case I’m stressed cause I’m overwhelmed, but I’m not forcing myself to care.  I ‘do’ care.  That’s why, even though I told myself I wasn’t going to even acknowledge a project that’s been frustrating me, I jotted down some ideas tonight.  That’s why, even though I have three days off this weekend, I already have two scheduled to work on a major project.  That’s why, even though I’m already piled with school work, I plan to practice guitar this weekend since I’m taking on even MORE work by involving myself in a showcase and recording project at school.

THAT’S why I won’t tip into apathy.  I might need to leave school early, lay on the couch, skip a class, and wonder just what the hell I’m gonna do.  But I’m not going to get apathetic.  Because I ‘do’ care about it all, and I ‘do’ want it all to turn out just fine.

Another reason I know I won’t tip.  When I skipped class because I felt i just HAD to get away because SCHOOL was driving me nuts…I felt guilty for skipping.

That’s caring.

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